Monday, January 23, 2012

DC New Universe: Is something not right in the DCNU?

I had decided today after that devastating loss to the Patriots to write a blog about the Ravens my favorite Football team, but I am still in a stunned silence and have a lot to say and I only have a short window due to the truly horrendous day I am having today. But I digress. I decided to follow up on a blog I had been working on since September. My thoughts on the new DC comics universe. However due to some financial issues the week I started working on that blog, I had to give up buying comics until our finances got into a better spot. Its a slow trek but we are getting there. By September 2012 we should be a little better off. But though I do not read comics anymore I am still interested in what is going on in the comic world. So I have been following it on line. What I have seen makes me start to think maybe I should not collect comics anymore. Especially DC comics.

As of this spring 6 books will be cancelled, 6 more will take it's place and within a span of 5 months there have been almost 9 creative team changes. That is absolutly insane. THe new DCU was supposed to be a place of consistency and a new life for comic books. Though the numbers seem to be better, it has failed to attract as many new readers as they were hoping. Their numbers are starting to settle down again. And two of the new comics are going to be about Earth 2 a scenario that was cleared out in the 80s with Crisis when DC decided to have 1 world and not multiple. But now the people who grew up with the alternate worlds are bringing them back. And I hate that idea as well.  But I can't do anything.

The books appear to be knockoffs of Marvel and Image in the 90s even going so far as to hire the same writers and artists from that dark era. A great example is Rob Liefeld. One of the worst artists of all time and an even slower writer. He got a gig drawing Hawk and Dove in the new DCU. But since that got cancelled which I can only attribute to the fact that NO ONE LIKES HIS ART. He gets not 1 new gig, not 2, but 3 new gigs. Writer artist of Deathstroke the Terminator, writer of Hawkman, and co writer of Grifter. How the hell does that happen???

The creative team mess started very early when John Rozum co-writer of Static Shock (another book cancelled) left the book due to creative differences after about 2 or 3 issues. Rozum is an excellent writer and appeared to bring some really interesting ideas, but DC had artist Scott McDaniel as co-writer and they liked his cliched ideas better.  Then George Perez said he would leave the Art and co-writing of Superman after 5 issues. He went on to get the art job on one of the new books, but still after 5 issues?? Then JT Krul said he was leaving Green Arrow, Dan Jurgens left the art as well and they hired Ann Nocenti who actually is an excellent writer and female to add some more female creators to the books which is still a sticking point with some people that they do not have more female or minority talents working on any of the books. Gail Simone said she was leaving Firestorm, Ron Marz leaving Voodoo, Paul Cornell leaving Stormwatch, Fabian Nicieza leaving Legion Lost, and Kyle Higgins off of Deathstroke. Why? Who knows? Creative differences, creative boredom, no freedom to write. New projects, who knows, but that is still a massive amount of turnover in the new universe which is still in its infancy.

The books that got cancelled: Hawk and Dove (Rob Liefeld, not well known characters), Static Shock (minority lead), Mr. Terrific (minority lead), Blackhawks (not superheroic), Men of War (ditto), OMAC (too weird, too Kirbyesqe). So two minority lead books, two books that dared to try something different in the DC Comics world, one hack artist, and one bizarre character no one has heard of, or liked the Kirbyesqe tribute.

I understand all new companies have growing pains, but this just goes to show you that something isn't right in the world of comics and who knows if they can get it back.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Saga of the Purple Jeep from my perspective

I first dated Dawn my wife (or Mino and ManMan to her blogger friends) back in September of 2000. She drove a Jeep, a purple Jeep Wrangler which was small for me but perfect for her and she absolutly loved it. Saturday January 14th 2012 was an end of an era when Dawn sold it to Carmax for over 1500 dollars. In between all of this were some ups and downs, long trips, painful trips, and when we needed it the most, it was there.

I am about to go off on a bit of stream of conscience about this since I don't remember times and dates, but I remember the events. Getting a phone call from Dawn when I was working at Diamond Comics saying her Jeep broke down on the exit to Route 1 as she was heading to the University of Maryland for her Masters classes. I went to get her and wait for the tow truck. Along those same thoughts the last day we had the Jeep, Dawn got the emissions done and had to find the Carmax location to get an estimate on how much they would pay for it. As she was getting there, the brakes went, then the Transmission, at almost the exact same time, literally just before she was entering the parking lot of Carmax. It was almost as if it knew it's time was coming and gave up. Or the one time early in our relationship when we went to Ocean City Maryland just the two of us for a week driving the Jeep with the top down, getting to our hotel, and deciding it would be fine to leave the top down overnight, only to be awoken the next morning by the car horn going off over and over again early in the morning, and seeing that it was raining out and the jeep was getting flooded with water. Putting the top up in the rain and then letting it air out the rest of the week, which was sunny by the way.
Driving in the Jeep down to the Outer Banks for the first time and getting stuck in the 4WD beach. Near the end of it's life having to have the Jeep towed to Jiffy Lube to get a new battery on a Sunday to prep it for a few weeks of usage due to my car accident, which may be another blog for another time. The Jeep being there for us during that rough time in between losing my rental and getting a new car. Since I can't drive stick, Dawn would drive it, even going so far as to put car seats in the jeep for the kids during this time. Usinig it when the Minivan was going through our week of hell with the passenger side tire. Old reliable always there when we needed it. But also an infuriating vehicle with it's many problems. But in the end it showed it's quality as being the highest. An old friend who has helped us one more time with such a great payout that we were certainly not expecting.  Sleep well old friend. You deserve it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Thursday October 9th 2003, My wife of 5 days and I finally headed out for our honeymoon. We had decided on San Francisco because I had been there a number of times and at this point I don't think she had. I don't think she had ever been on the West Coast at this time. So we found a great deal on a hotel on Fisherman's Wharf called the Argonaut, at the time was still a fairly new hotel. We also had our trip planned out so we were ready to take San Fran by storm and we were not disappointed.

We ended up getting to San Fran about 10am their time. We had paid extra for transport to and from the airport so we had one less thing to worry about. We got to the hotel in good time, but of course they were not ready for us. I think check in was like 3pm. So we left our bags and decided to explore. We discovered to our amazement that The Argonaut was right next to Ghiardelli Square one of the tourist sites in San Fran. We explored that for a bit, then walked down to the wharf. Glorious sunny blue sky weather permeated as we stopped in to get something to eat. While eating we heard to loud booms. We went outside to see what happened and learned that we had arrived during fleet week. The time when the US NAVY visits a city. There was a parade scheduled on Sunday and the Blue Angels were practicing over San Fran Bay that was what made the boom. As we say that there we were trying to decide what to do. We didn't want to overdo anything that day so we decided to go to Alcatraz for a tour. That was pretty interesting as well. Afterwards we did a little shopping around the wharf then headed back to the hotel.

They offered us a choice a room. A view of Alcatraz or a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Since Alcatraz is a jail we decided on the bridge. We got to our room and you could see the bridge, but we were also facing Ghiardelli Square. We took a nap and then headed out for dinner.

The next day was Friday and we did our first real touristy thing. We took a double decker bus tour of the San Fran area. We got a chance to see everything San Fran had to offer. Afterwards I think we did more shopping and walking around and just enjoying the second straight day of Beautiful weather. I think that night we actually watched a movie on their pay per view which had just come out that summer. It was either Finding Nemo or Pirates of the Carribbean. We watched both during our trip though I can't remember what day we watched each of them.  Went to bed early because Saturday was going to be a big day.

Saturday was a trip to Monterray and Carmel. A bus tour to these close by cities with stops at Pebble Beach, the Joshua Tree and more. A very fun and pleasant trip. Though we did not get a chance to really look around Carmel since we stopped there for dinner and it was the world's slowest restaurant.  We got to see the Monterray Aquarium and did more shopping as well.  Very good bus driver who entertained us and our fellow tourists on the trip. I think we also stopped at a Chinese Garden as well.

Sunday morning we were surprised by breakfast from friends back home. We decided it was going to be a lazy day. So we watched football most of the day, since the 1pm games start at 10am and the 4pm games start at 1pm. I think we left the room to go to the Navy Parade which was going right past our hotel then we were able to go back in and watch the 8pm game at 5pm. By the time the game was over we were eating at the Argonaut's restaurant and just relaxing.

Monday was our Winery trip. We checked out 3 wineries. 2 in Napa and 1 in Sonoma. All were different. One was a typical winery, one was an organic winery which was ok, not very interesting looking, and the Sonoma one was a glorious throwback to an Italian style winery with peacock's walking around and beautiful scenary.

Tuesday was our last day. We had a red-eye flight out so we had a day to kill. We decided to explore San Fran on our own. Ride the cable cars, go to Chinatown (which to be honest is not very impressive). We also hooked up with some friends who were on a two week honeymoon and they just arrived in San Fran. We had dinner with them then dessert at Ghiardelli Square. Then we were heading home.

The flight back was rough. I couldn't sleep well, we had lots of turbulence and we had to do a stop at Pittsburgh at 6am when high winds were hitting the East Coast. Tired, Jet lagged. It was rough. The descent to Baltimore was just as tough. But we got home and I had decided earlier I was taking the rest of the week off. So I did to recover. All in all one of the best trips I have ever been on. Wish I had some pictures I could post on here but they are at home in solid form.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

All Good Things Must Come to end: R.E.M calls it a day

My favorite band of all time has called it quits. After 31 years R.E.M has broken up. Even surviving the departure of original member Bill Berry a rumoured January 2000 breakup as well the band has continued strong with a slew of albums and lots of success. They are also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so there place in Rock history is assured. And to be totally honest I am kind of glad they are done. The last few years have been a tough time to be a fan to see has their music doesn't resonate with the public as much as it did in the early 90s and they were getting older and the music was not as good as it used to be. Don't get me wrong it is still great music but with the exception of a couple of songs their best years have past.

I'm still trying to wrap my thoughts around this so this post may be a bit off kilter. I got into them at the tail end of high school. I think just before they broke open with OUT OF TIME their most successful album that landed them on the map. My friend Matt Saunders is the one who introduced me to them as well as They Might Be Giants. I remember that my sister had gotten a tape single of The One I Love and I kept replaying it over and over. Matt had all their early albums so he made tapes for me of their early stuff, I also went to the record store and picked up as many of the albums as I could on tape too. Whereas I loved Murmur, I found Reckoning and Fables of the Reconstruction to not be my cup of tea. (At the time. Reckoning is better to me now but Fables is still off) Life's Rich Pagent and Document blew me away and I was hooked. ( I consider LRP to be their 2nd best album of all time). Green was the new REM. The first one to come out of a major record label (Warner Brothers) and it had all the makings of a pop album. And boasts one of my favorite songs of all time of theirs Get UP. But Out of Time is when everyone got it. When REM took the world by storm. Soon they were everywhere. They were selling millions of copies. They were getting name dropped in TV shows and Movies and they were Grammy winners. The thing is Out of Time is an all right album to me. I like it, but it felt too mainstream. Which is fine since it is what made them famous. Then they drop Automatic for the People. My absolute favorite REM album of all time and their second most successful. A perfect remedy to the poppy Out of Time. Automatic had some pop moments but it also delved back into some of the old school REM I loved. Then came Monster. An album that is my next to last favorite album. It has gotten a little better as I got older. But there is just something about it that I don't like. The first half is good but about midpoint it disappoints.  Never fear. New Adventures in Hi-Fi rolls in and is excellent (my third favorite album of theirs). Unfortunatly it was also the last one with Bill Berry who had gotten burned out and left the group. Many thought that this may have been the end of REM because they had said if one went they would all go. But Bill Berry told them don't you dare break up. And they didn't. Heck he even came out and played with them a few times.

Their first adventure without him was actually writing the score for the Jim Carrey Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon. One of my favorite songs The Great Beyond came out of that movie, but that and Man on the Moon were the only songs they did for the film. Their score was pure instrumental. Their first album was Up which is not really a great song, Day Sleeper is really the only song I truly love from the album, but to be fair it is the one album along with Fables I have not really listened to fully over and over like the other ones. They rebounded with Reveal or what I call The Summer album. A good portion of the album is filled with great songs and showed that they could go on without Berry. I called it the summer album because most of the songs feel very summery and go so far as to have references galore to summertime. (One track is called BeachBall, and Imitation of Life is a song about memories of childhood summers). Unfortunatly their next album Around the Sun could very well have been the death knell of the band. Critical ravaged, did not even break the top 10 album charts and really only produced two good songs in my opinion. Because of this failure REM regrouped and got a new Producer ditching their long time Producer. What came out of it was a minor rebirth for the band in the critically acclaimed Accelerate, and a tour. The last time they toured. Accelerate also did very well in the sales department and is excellent as well as extremely fast. Their final album was released about 6 months before they decided to break up. Collapse into Now was another excellent album that played well with it's brother Accelerate and could have lead REM into a new era. But they felt it was time to call it a day and retire.

Now I started writing this a day or so after they broke up. Now 4 months later it's not all that bad. They released a best of album in November. The big thing that came out of their break up was the sheer amount of people who beleived they had all ready broken up which just goes to show you, they started out as a cult band, hit their stride at the right time, became hugely famous band, lost a founding member and began to fade from view going back to their cult band status. It was time. They came full circle (or Perfect Circle if you will. The name of one of their songs from their first mainstream album Murmur) Now REM can depart in Peace. I have all their albums and as long as I have them they will never go away. One day I will get to my top 101 REM songs of all time. But for now I will sit in my car and listen to the songs I like and ignore the ones I dont. They have plenty. Who knows maybe they can continue to live if I pass my passion for them onto my kids. Night boys. It's been a fun ride. Enjoy your retirement.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

More of the same old same old

Yeah, here I am again saying to myself that this year is the year. The year I will make this blog something cool to read, a cool place to hang out, a cool place to have discussions of things. But real life continues to intrude. Got a promotion at work in December and it has been kicking my ass. The kids are at that age where they are complete handfulls but in a good way. When I get home from work I play with the kids, have dinner, put them to bed and then my wife and I just sit and relax because she has had it tough. She has a blog also, MINO and MANMAN which I know she would like to work on more but the time after dealing with work and kids is quiet time. Time for us to relax. Catch up on reading or just zone out. And yes sometimes talk.  So I don't have a lot of motivation to write because I am so freaking tired or busy all the time. Worrying about this and that also puts stress on me and I just want a chance to escape. So the time from 830-10pm is quiet time when I just want to unwind, and not having a good computer is also detremental as well. I love writing and may not be the most interesting person in the world but it is fun. I have a ton of ideas and I am hoping with this pronouncement that 2012 will be a good year for my blog. We'll see. I have a ton of unfinished columns which maybe should stay that way, especially the comic one since I don't collect comics anymore. Money issues. But there are some I just need the time to write and I am hoping maybe this 3pm break time I am allowed at work may be the best time to catch up. Let's see what happens tomorrow. Dont be surprised if it is June before you see me again. But I will try harder. And I plan to.